iUniverse has noted in a previous article that the sci-fi/fantasy genre is one of the best-selling genres worldwide, ranking just under mystery and self-help. Today, we would like to encourage you to explore the novels of R.A. Lafferty, a science-fiction writer of the traditional school, and one of amazing creativity.
Lafferty does not belong to the Big Three of sci-fi writers, which includes Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov, nor have we seen his books made into movies, as with so many of Philip K. Dick’s works. However, Lafferty was popular in the 1960s and 1970s, and published 20 novels and over 200 short stories. Present-day writers of science fiction and fantasy will find him interesting reading, for a variety of reasons:
Subordination of plot: Lafferty’s narratives, unlike many sci-fi works, are not all simply plot-driven. He often integrates the importance of character into his stories and makes such characters multi-dimensional. Most sci-fi/fantasy novels and screenplays that have been successful in the past 30 years have also employed this technique. It is difficult to imagine Star Wars or the currently ultra-popular Game of Thrones without focusing on the characters; in the case of Game of Thrones, the plot is often so murky and convoluted that the characters are the essential focus of the show.
Use of humor: Most science-fiction ignores or even scorns humor, unless such humor is accidental. Nonetheless, as with the note above, humor is an important part of a successful book or screenplay in today’s reading and viewing world. Lafferty was not afraid to insert a witty quip or even to be a bit absurd at times, as often seen in one of his more famous works, Fourth Mansions.
Eclecticism: Lafferty does not confine himself to “hard” science fiction, i.e. just creating stories around science, but incorporates many other elements. These include religion (primarily Catholicism), American history, mythology, and traditional tall-tale storytelling. Again, Lafferty’s well-roundedness makes him more suitable for a mass audience of our era.
Some works by R.A. Lafferty to check out are:
- Fourth Mansions
- Iron Tears (collection)
- Past Master
- Space Chantey
- Annals of Klepsis